WWAC Crafters: Happy Felt: Making Needle Felted Penguins with Crafty Creatives

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This week, we are celebrating geeky crafting at WWAC with WWAC Crafters. Like our WWAC Warriors, our crafters proudly wave their geek flag. We’ve got oil painting, jewelry making, and our favorite indie crafters coming your way.

Subscription boxes are all the rage this past year or so, and they show no sign of slowing down. You can get almost anything in a sub box, from geeky merchandise to snack foods to cocktail mixers. Me? I like them because it’s a surprise each month, like Christmas all over again! Say, wouldn’t that logic be great for crafts, and you got a new project each month for learning a new craft? I’m a genius!

Oh darn, someone else thought of it first. Say hello to Crafty Creatives. Based in the UK, Crafty Creatives supply two types of subscription boxes for us artsy-fartsy types, with a third on the way. Their Paperhaul box ships worldwide and is filled with monthly-themed goods centred around stationary, stickers, and old-fashioned postal art. The Beadhaul box has not been released yet, but will feature themed months of beads and charms for jewelry-making. The original Crafty Creatives box, which ships to the UK and Europe, is a unique craft project contained in a single box. Past months have covered shrink art, quilling, mosaic candle holder kits, and Modroc plaster bandage.

knitting needles, Knorr Prandell 90mm 3-Piece Felting Needle Set
This ain’t your Granny’s knitting needle.

This month’s project was needle felting. Needle felting is the sculpting, shaping, and pinning of felt using a special notched needle. By stabbing the felt with this needle repeatedly, you compact and tangle the fibres together. Honestly, in all my years of crafting, I’d never seen needle felting until Pinterest, and even then didn’t give it much mind. It wasn’t my normal sort of crafting. I tend to do a lot more decorative things, like jewellry or printmaking. Sculpting, such as ceramics, was never my forte. So this looked to be a good test on the project box, as I had no prior experience with the presented material.

Within the box were all the materials needed: three colours of felt (black, white, and orange), three polystyrene eggs of differing sizes, a felting needle in a piece of felting foam, a set of instructions, and a postcard-like information sheet showing the finished product – three penguins of varying sizes.

Lindsey_Step 1
Me being angry and confused with Step 1.

It didn’t start well, I’m afraid. The first step instructed to take a piece of felt of “manageable length” to start. As a complete novice with no knowledge of felting, I had no idea what that meant. It then said to place the felt over the largest egg and “jab the felting needle through the wool in a fast tapping motion until it is all held in place.” Again, this seemed very vague for an introduction to the craft. For instance, I “jabbed” that damn needle over and over and the felt fell off every time. There was just no stick!

I had to resort to YouTube, which I had hoped to avoid in order to maintain the virginity of the experience. But seeing as this was stopping me from even starting the craft properly, it felt necessary. The first video found when I looked up “needle felting” goes over the basics and was very helpful. For instance, I had no idea that the needle was special, containing the aforementioned notches. It turns out the needle must be jabbed into the polystyrene past these notches in order for it to stick on – I was definitely not sticking it that far.

Once I started pushing the needle in far enough, magic things happened. The felt stuck! I then proceeded to stab with vigour and probably without the proper care or precision. But it was working!

Lindsey_step 2
You have to push the needle in at least thiiiis far.

There were a few more moments where I felt the instructions weren’t specific enough, or could have done with more pictures. For instance, when making the beak of the penguin, I was instructed to fold a strip of the “right width” (argh, vague!) for the beak and then “twist the open ends to form a point.” It didn’t matter how I twisted – it wasn’t a point. In the end, I believe it would have been easier if it was described as folding the two ends inward to make a cone shape. Eventually, I struggled through it, but I can’t attest to whether my effort was in line with their intentions. Hey, the damn bird has a beak, so who cares?

Lindsey_step 3
I was tempted to stop here and just leave him as a little emoticon face.

About halfway through, I was beginning to get the hang of things and stopped letting myself get hung up on the language of the instructions, relying more on some of the pictures and my own ingenuity. While the latter might not always be the wisest decision, it served me well (this time).

Lindsey_step 4
The “twisted beak” instruction annoyed me, but I pinned that sucker on his little face in the end.

It took me approximately an hour and a half to make the large penguin, which is around 3-4” tall. I’ve not created the two smaller ones, and I’m not sure I will. While I did ultimately enjoy it, I can only imagine getting frustrated on the smaller scales with things like the beak and feet. It was hard enough on the large one!

Ultimately, if you’re someone who likes variety and wants to sample different crafts without the commitment of buying bulk supplies, Crafty Creatives is a good buy. Their projects are good starting points, giving you enough of a taste to chew over and consider whether it’s something you’d like to do more often. I would not, however, rely solely on the instructions for help. If you get stuck, don’t get frustrated—give it a quick Google or Youtube search. And I would be hesitant to buy them for anyone younger. This particular project involved a fairly large needle, which I was worried about stabbing myself with multiple times. Previous projects have involved chemicals, cutting tools, and use of heat to melt or treat items. If you want to gift them to the young, little artisan in your life, make sure they’re responsible enough to use the tools or ensure they will be supervised when crafting.

Lindsey_Step 5
Ta-da! Penguin!

I’ll be giving them another go, personally. While I was a little annoyed with some of the instructions and had to run to Youtube to actually get started, I did enjoy it. I found the fixing of the felt to the egg therapeutic, and it’s always fun to watch something materialise from nothing to something, from foam-egg and felt to penguin. I’m curious to see what upcoming projects will be and whether they’ll be something with which I’m already familiar or something completely new again. Who knows? I might find my next great passion!

Cathryn Sinjin-Starr

Cathryn Sinjin-Starr

An American specimen (subspecies: Michigander), now under research in the United Kingdom. Subject appears to sustain itself on video games and webcomics. Favourite flavours are fantasy and sci-fi, with a slice of life on the side. Hair has an odd chameleon property - it continually shifts in colour according to mood and, as previous researcher described, “zaniness”.